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Lack of flexibility locking talented women out of their careers

Women employees who take time off to have a baby are protected in the law, so that they can return to the job (or a suitable alternative) once their maternity leave is over.

But what about women who choose to take an extended break, beyond the 52-week leave period enshrined in legislation?

It can be difficult for these women to get back to work, even though these are often talented, experienced and qualified women that could benefit UK plc to the tune of £23 billion.

Research by She's Back, an organisation to help businesses access the untapped potential of women who took a career break, has found that 84 per cent of 1,100 women surveyed wanted to go back to work, but 75 per cent didn't believe there was enough flexibility to do so.

No way back

The research highlighted the lack of obvious routes back into the workplace for career-break returners. But a supportive environment backed up with understanding and encouraging managers could be the key to open a channel to this talent pool.

Failure to re-engage with these women costs the average large business £2 million a year to replace them, according to their research.

New technologies are making it easier for businesses to fit flexible working arrangements into their employment culture - and to re-establish a pathway for a skilled, motivated and loyal group of women to get back into their careers.

Acas publications and services

Extensive advice for employers on homeworking and flexible working is given in pdf icon Homeworking - a guide for employers and employees [272kb] and the pdf icon Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance [347kb] respectively.

Acas experts can visit your workplace and help you develop effective flexible-working policies; see Parents and carers: how Acas can help or call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150 for details.

Acas also runs practical training courses on Flexible working, Maternity, paternity and adoption and Work/life balance, including developing family-friendly policies in the workplace.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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